Oscar Pistorius trial National Press Club Newsmaker for 2014

The Oscar Pistorius trial has been named the National Press Club – North-West University Newsmaker of the Year for 2014.

This includes the roles played in the trial by Oscar Pistorius himself, Judge Thokozile Masipa, prosecutor Adv Gerrie Nel and defence lawyer Adv Barry Roux.

National Press Club Chairperson, Jos Charle says both in terms of impact and news value and media attention in electronic, print, online and social media the trial dominated the news in 2014. “For the first time in the history of South Africa, most of any trial’s court proceedings were broadcast live on a dedicated TV channel. An international Oscar Pistorius trial TV channel followed soon afterwards. At least four books have been published on the trial – with more in the offing.

“Media-wise the trial was bigger than the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Judge Thokozile Masipa’s banning of blogging and tweeting of graphic evidence by pathologist Gert Saayman prompted 2 500 articles. In 24 hours news and social media hit over 106 000 unique inserts. Pistorius having retched in court was carried in 2 300 news articles. In nine days the press hit the 750 000 article mark,” says Charle.

“Nothing could move the media attention away from Oscar,” says the media monitoring group Data Driven Insight.

“Media data was compiled from 6,2 million social media platforms including blogs, forums, social networks and commentary, 60 000 global online newspapers, 2 000 South African print publications and 66 radio and television stations.”

“A digital revolution has been in the offing for long, but this trial has finally drawn the line on the old mass media dispensation,” says Prof Johannes Froneman of the Journalism Department at the North-West University.

“The shroud of secrecy has been ripped off court proceedings. We could all see, hear and read – on TV, radio, newspaper and smartphones – how the trail was unfolding.

“How the media covers major stories now has a new pattern. The rumours of media convergence have ballooned. Media coverage during the trail was a combination of broadcast channels, printed newspaper, tweets, Facebook and blogs.

“Morning newspapers, for example, had to finally change its role as “reporter-in-the-morning” to a hybrid, day-and-night collector of news, views, highlights on social media and predictor of what will happen.

“Journalists now report on multiple platforms – simultaneously tweeting, taking photos, appearing in front of TV cameras and writing books. It also demands closer selection by the media user,” says Froneman.

Charle says the trial has irrevocably changed the manner in which news is compiled, covered and consumed.

“It is no longer a ‘one medium does one thing’ and ‘take it or leave it’. The trial has realised digital media presentation – both media producers and media consumers have become much more sophisticated – overnight.

“The extremely high media visibility of the trial also placed the tragic results of violent human behaviour in the forefront. The essential timeous attention to such behaviour cannot be over-emphasised. The National Press Club expresses its heart-felt sympathy to all the role-players that suffered from the actions that gave rise to this trial – especially the Steenkamp family,” says Charle.

The club is synonymous with the Newsmaker of the Year award. Over the years the club has recognised and awarded many newsmakers. Previous recipients include President Jacob Zuma, former presidents FW de Klerk, and Thabo Mbeki. Other newsmakers include Hollywood star Charlize Theron, Zachie Achmat and the Treatment Action Campaign, the late Hansie Cronjé and various other sporting personalities, DA Leader Helen Zille, ESKOM and Cope and FIFA’s Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordaan also received the award in recent years. Other recipients were Thuli Madonsela and Julius Malema and the South African rhino. Last year the award went to the late Nelson Mandela – his legacy. He was also awarded before.

The date of the Newsmaker award function will be announced soon.

The winner of the National Press Club-North-West University Journalist of the Year competition will also be announced at the function.

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